Freemasonry is a religious institution, and hence its regulations inculcate the use of prayer "as a proper tribute of gratitude," to borrow the language of Preston, "to the beneficent Author of Life." Hence it is of indispensable obligation that a Lodge, a Chapter, or any other Masonic Body, should be both opened and closed with prayer; and in the Lodges working in the English and American systems the obligation is strictly observed. The prayers used at opening and closing in the United States differ in language from the early formulas found in the second edition of Preston, and for the alterations we are probably indebted to Webb. The prayers used in the middle and perhaps the beginning of the eighteenth century are to be found in Peston (1775 edition) and are as follows:
At opening - May the favor of Heaven be upon this our happy meeting: may it begun , carried on, and ended in order , harmony, and brotherly love: Amen.
At Closing.--May the blessing of Heaven be with us and all regular Masons, to beautify and cement us title every moral and social virtue: Amen.
There is also a prayer at the initiation of a candidate, which has, at the present day, been very slightly varied from the original form. This prayer, but in a very different form, is much older than Preston, who changed and altered the much longer formula which had been used previous to his day. It was asserted by Dermott that the prayer at initiation was a ceremony only in use among the Ancient or Atholl Freemasons and that it was omitted by the Moderns. But this cannot be so, as is proved by the insertion of it in the earliest editions of Preston. We have moreover a form of prayer into be used at the admission of a brother, " contained in the Pocket Companion, published in 1754, by John Scott, an adherent of the Moderns, which proves that they as well as the Ancient observed the usage of prayer at an initiation. There is a still more ancient formula of "Prayer to be used of Christian Masons at the appointing of a brother," said to have been used in the reign of Edward IV from 1461 to 1483, which is as follows:
The might of God, the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of his glorious Son through the goodness of the Holy Ghost, that hath been three persons in one Godhead be with us at our beginning give us grace to govern in our living here, that we may only come to his bliss that shall never have an end.
The custom of commencing and ending labor with prayer was adopted at an early period by the Operative Freemasons of England. Findel says ( History, page 78), that "their Lodges were opened at sunrise, the Master taking his station in the East and the Brethren forming a half circle around him. After prayer, each Craftsman had his daily work pointed out to him, and received his instructions. At sunset they again assembled after labor, prayer was offered, and their wages paid to them.
" We cannot doubt that the German Stone Masons, who were even more religiously demonstrative than their English Brethren must have observed the same custom. As to the posture to be observed in Masonic prayer, it may be remarked that in the lower Degrees the usual posture is standing. At an initiation the candidate kneels, but the Brethren stand. In the higher Degrees the usual posture is to kneel on the right knee. These are at least the usages which are generally practiced in the United States.
We may add to the above comments by Doctor Mackey a few items of interest. Brother L. P. Newby (Sidelights on Templar Law, 1919, pages 96, 130) says:
Who is responsible for having two different versions of the Lord's Prayer in our Services, I am unable to state. It is a mistaken assumption that the Committee on Revision of 1910 (Grand Encampment Knights Templar of the United States) prepared a Lurial Service containing the Lord's Prayer, in which the words "Tres pass and Trespasses"' were used. The committee did prepare and present a short form of Burial Service. but it was not acted upon by the Grand Encampment in 1910, the further consideration of it was postponed, and it has never been acted upon (see Proceedings, 1910, middle and perhaps the beginning of the eighteenth page 203). The proper words to be used with the Lord's Prayer in the Asylum of the Commandery are debts and Debtors," and at Burial Services "Trespass and Trespasses (see Proceedings, 1916, pages 36-8 Brother Newby also says of the two expressions: Our Savior upon two occasions instructed His people how to pray, first in His Sermon on the Mount, and second. about two years afterward; but in neither prayer did He use the words "Trespass and Trespasses" (see St. Matthew vi, 12; St. Luke xi, 1-13). In His Sermon on the Mount He did say to the people: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father wil also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses." These statements were made in a sermon and not in a prayer. As the form of the Lord's prayer used by the members of other Churches contains the words "debts and debtors," it is not for a layman to determine the question as to which form is correct, yet it is rather remarkable that those who prepared our Ceremonies did not agree upon the Lord's Prayer.
The Lord's Prayer should also be examined in the light of the translation by Professor Edgar J. Goodspeed, University of Chicago, whose English of the New Testament aims to reproduce the ease, boldness, and unpretending vigor of the original Greek, in the common language of everyday life during the era of one Savior.
The frequently observed expression "for Thine is the power and glory for ever," is a conclusion not to be found in any of the oldest manuscripts but in most of the later copies of Matthew only. It occurs the Didache, the teachings of the Apostles, a disvery at Constantinople in early Christian literature which a copy finished by the writer, Leo, on June 1, 1156, was found in the Library of the Jerusalem Jonastery.
Of the prayer itself several points have aroused discussion. Daily bread, for example, was given various interpretations by the old authorities. Hastings dictionary of the Bible (page 553) suggests for consideration the two aspects, "the word bread may be taken in an earthly or a heavenly sense. The fulness of Scriptural language justifies the widest application of the term, whatsoever is needed for the coming day, to be sought in daily morning prayer--"give us today" or whatsoever is needed for the coming days of life. The petition becomes a prayer for the presence of Him who has revealed Himself as "the Bread." The clause "as we forgive our debtors" is by some old authorities read "as we have forgiven our debtors." The conclusion of the prayer is usually repeated as "deliver us from evil" but the Greek ending is indefinite and Hastings says this may be read "the evil one," or "the evil," or "whatsoever is evil." However, as to these variations, they can be heeded in the spirit of the poet, Coleridge (Ancient Mariner, Part vii):
He prayeth best who loveth best All things, both great and small. And as to forms we have Brother Kipling's Song of Kabir: My brother kneels, so saith Kabir To stone and brass in heathen-wise, But in my brother's voice I hear My own unanswered agonies. His God is as his fates assign His prayer is all the world's--and mine.
Madame de Stael has in Corinne (Book x, chapter v) commented earnestly and with precision on the benefit of praying with one another.
To pray together in whatever tongue or ritual, is the most tender brotherhood of hope and sympathy that men can contract in this life.
An old prayer was given in the Printing Art, and was contributed by us to the American Freemason, June, 1910. Appearing in the Wolangerichtete Buchdruckerei of Ernesti it is a reminder of the pronounced religious fervor of craftsmen. The sentiment of loyalty and respect to the craft was so commonly observed that when a German traveling workman entered a town and found his way to the local place of his trade the usual salutation was "God bless the Art," Gott grus die kunst. Here is the prayer: Oh Lord, Almighty God, printing is a glorious and a noble art--a blessing Thou hast reserved for mankind in these latter days, an art by which all conditions of men, and especially Thy Holy Church, are greatly nourished. And since, good Lord, Thou hast of Thy free grace given me an opportunity of exercising an Art and Craft so exalted, I pray Thee to guide me by Thy Holy Spirit in using the same to Thy honor. Thou knowest, dear Lord, the great diligence, continual care and accurate knowledge of the characters of many languages are needful in this Art, therefore I call to Thee for help; that I may be earnest and careful, both in the setting up of types, and in printing the same. Preserve my soul in the constant love of Thy Holy Word and truth, and my body in sobriety and purity, that so, after a life here befitting a printer, I may hereafter, at the last coming of my most worthy Savior, Jesus Christ, be found a good workman in his sight, and wear the everlasting crown in His presence. Hear me, dearest God, for Thy honor and my welfare, Amen.
Another Masonic prayer, one used by the Worshipful Master, Henry Pears, Tyrian Lodge, No. 370, Cleveland, Ohio, is here submitted as when first heard there by us many years ago:
Almighty and Eternal God--there is no number of Thy days nor of Thy mercies. Thou has sent us into the world to serve Thee, but we wander from Thee in the paths of error. Our days are but a span in length, yet tedious because of calamities that surround us on every side. The days of our pilgrimage are few and full of evil. our bodies are frail, our passions violent and distempered, our understanding weak and our will perverse. Look thou, Almighty Father, upon us with pity and with mercy. We adore Thy majesty, and trust like little children in Thy infinite goodness. Give us patience to live well; and firmness to resist evil. even as our departed Brother resisted. Give us faith and confidence in Thee, and enable us so to live that when we come to die, we may lie down in the grave like one who composes himself to sleep, and may we hereafter be worthy to be held in the memories of men. Bless us, O God, and bless our fraternity throughout the world. May we live and emulate the example of our departed Grand Master, and finally may we attain in this world a knowledge of Thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.
Heartiness of invocation is not necessarily any measure of the length of a prayer, an effectual prayer recorded by Saint Luke (xviu, 13) was "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." At Royal Arch Chapter dinners in Europe we noted that the grace as given in our hearing on several occasions was even less lengthy than the one just mentioned and had but a couple of Latin words, "Benedictus, Bened at," meaning May the Blessed One bless. After the dinner there was an equally brief prayer, also in Latin, "Benedicto Benedicatur," May the Blessed One be blessed.
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